Tag Archives: community

Community Rockpooling

Over the past week our marine team has been spending quite a lot of time around our various rockpool areas. These little windows to the sea are a great way to introduce people to marine life, as well as fascinating, understudied habitats.

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Saturday, June 8th, we celebrated World Ocean’s Day by getting all of our volunteers together and hosting a rockpooling party in front of the Turtle Bay Beach Club. Several local people saw advertisements on facebook and around town and came to join in the fun, along with guests at the various resorts and many beach operators. Everyone had a great time exploring the pools and learning about sea urchins, corals, sea anemones, sea cucumbers, starfish, crabs, sponges, etc. It was particularly rewarding  to see the amount of interest many of the beach operators had in learning proper names and asking intelligent questions about the ecology of various organisms. It was a very rewarding, enjoyable trip and on top of it all, we added two new fish species to our park list!

Untitled 7Untitled 6 This week also brought quite a bit of rockpool field work as marine volunteer, Tori Sindorf, is working on putting together a fish biodiversity estimate for the rocky intertidal areas of the park. We enjoyed bringing various people out to act as scribes and get a feel for what we were doing, and were honoured to have national director, Raphael Magambo join us for one of the days.

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We ended the week of spring tides (times when the low tides are extra low) by taking a trip across the creek to Uyombo, to Chipande Primary School, to do some environmental education with the kiddos out there. It was great traipsing around intertidal areas with kids pointing excitedly to everything they saw, asking for an explanation, and trying to ID creatures with our tidepool field guide sheets. It was especially fun encouraging a group of girls to try gently touching sea cucumbers and sea urchins, watching them squeal with delight at the new sensations!

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Strong local reactions against Jatropha threat to Tana River Delta

There has been a facebook profile set up for ‘Tana River County, Kenya’ that has been interesting to read some of the reactions from local people living either in the delta or in town but it being their home where they come from and so still very concerned about it. This is one recent post that I thought would be good to share. She hits the nail on the head with several of her comments:

“Jatropha BIOFUEL Plant in Tana Delta…NO!NO!NO!

one thing for sure is that if it is a 65,000hectres of an agricultural project then the people shall eat directly from the land thanks to the produce, but if we insist on a Biofuel plant apart from killing the Ecosystem.. Truth is:

1. you cannot Eat fuel.

2 it needs further processing which means it need a production plant, that shall need the water from the river in order to process it.

3 after processing the water is spilled back into the river where fishermen,children and cattle heads drink and fish and fetch water for cooking.

4. the dead carcasses of the trees shall be left to rot and also thrown into the river ,after a month you will have a good part of tree part from the 65,000hectares floating monthly down the river.

5 you will still have to buy the petrol in town that is if it is for kenyans but the truth is,…it is for the europeans.we are just a “cheap” production plant like in china because our leaders are easily lured with a sweet.

6 at the end of the day,..you shall not have neither NSWi nor Matholi because the fish shall die of poisoning.

7. We are now back to square one where people shall not even be able to use the river water, meaning more hunger.so we shall even be meandering further down the rivers of poverty,hunger and apart from this….Displacement because of foreign interest.

8.Fact is that, i really don’t have to care about anybody else since i am in “town” as you could have put it. But i care because i am still a daughter of this land and shall fight against any NON-sustainable “projects”.

9.we are already suffering from the consequences of global warming,why damage further.

10.The european communities are going “green” but all its dirty work is done else where like africa,china,india. they only tell you about the basic structure of a project but notice that they don’t give you the details of the whole process which we are not taking into account….until when you finding them breaking every code.am afraid we are making a grave mistake!!

11.Say YES!! to agriculture!! instead…”

…There are also other options to just agriculture as well – such as conserving part of the area for wildlife and using it for sustainable tourism. Afterall this means the land and habitat will be maintained in the way that God created it to be and to act as – i.e. as a ‘sponge’ for the natural flooding that should happen annually thus providing highly rich conditions for breeding fish / birds / amphibians / mammals etc.. as well as a carbon sink and to prevent erosion. The potential for ecotourism there is huge – it just needs the willingness of the government to support it instead of a biofuel project which will destroy the area and increase poverty levels.

Tana River Local Community fighting for their land & to conserve biodiversity

Just before I came back South Africa I met with Maulidi Diwayu in Malindi. He’d been calling me frequently to try and set up a meeting before he headed back into the Tana River Delta where he’s from in order to discuss the huge challenge of the sugarcane project threatening to destroy the delta.

Diwayu in Malindi - Chairman of TADECO Diwayu in Malindi en route to the Delta

Diwayu is from Garsen which is the main (though small) town for the delta situated just upstream of where the river starts to thread into numerous channels and over flow its banks more regularly – the nature of a delta. He is chairman of TADECO (the Tana River Conservation Organisation) which is a local, community-based NGO set up in 1997 to try and conserve the biodiversity of the Delta in conjunction with the livelihoods of the local communities living in and around the delta.

TADECO’s main objective currently is to fight the sugar cane project being forced on them by the Tana River Development Authority (TARDA) and Mumias Sugar Co. as the project has been deemed hugely detrimental to the local community as well as clearly so for the environment. Diwayu actually used to be an employee of TARDA – part of their monitoring and evaluation team but in 1998 he pointed out to TARDA the inadequacies of the rice scheme they were trying to introduce (as his job was supposed to do) where basically the only beneficiaries of the project were going to be the government and not the local farmers. He presented a paper at a workshop titled “Community participation as a tool for sustainable development” where he talked of the importance of including local community members directly in decision-making and developing concepts and plans for development of an area. TARDA misunderstood him, took his presentation to be subversive and sacked him at the workshop!!

This led to him setting up TADECO to try and bring a voice to the people and to conserve the rich biodiversity of the delta. TADECO is effectively an ‘umbrella organisation’ for the whole delta. It’s members are therefore a number of smaller CBOs (Community Based Orgs) which may include youth groups, women groups, church groups, farmer groups etc..

The main activities of TADECO are to:

  • – raise community awareness about the issues facing the delta
  • – educate the community about the importance of the delta
  • – carry out advocacy campaigns against projects / activities that are destructive to the delta’s environment
  • – solicit funding for the member groups to undertake eco-friendly activities
  • – organise and facilitate community training programmes

With the sugar project seriously threatening the delta, Diwayu is on a mission now to do all that he can through TADECO to sensitise the people about the project and its effects. He was at the public hearings that TARDA had back in May and was part of the team who pointed out very clearly the inadequacies of the project. Despite the loud resistance to the project by the communities living in the delta together with the conservationists pointing out the huge importance of the delta for its biodiversity, the government has gone ahead and issued a license to the sugar project. TADECO has therefore taken the issue to the High Court with the help of those conservation bodies involved in protecting the delta.

Simultaneously the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) are putting forward the Delta as a proposed RAMSAR site which will greatly assist in preventing destructive activities happening there. Meetings have been going on this month with stakeholders and experts regarding the RAMSAR issue and hopefully it won’t be long before it is accepted. Diwayu has been keenly involved in all these discussions and has travelled to Nairobi to take part in the meetings as a key community member.

Diwayu, therefore is extremely active and a key player in the fight to conserve this threatened wetland. When I talked to him, he gave me a proposal that he had written for TADECO that was seeking for funds to do the awareness raising and education of the delta communities. For this he plans to travel from village to village (see what one of them looks like below) to sensitize the people on what the effect of the sugar project will be. He plans to hold 48 public ‘barazas’ (meetings) in each of the villages.

a village in the Tana River Delta, Kenya

For this he and two others will need to either walk, bike, boat or travel in public transport from one village to the next. The main cost here therefore is transport costs. 10 litres of fuel for a boat costs $14 and they would probably need 20-30 litres per day; sometimes it would be best for them to even hire a vehicle which will cost more like $75 per day. If anyone is keen to support this crucial component of the fight for the delta, please do donate through this blog – make sure you add a reference that it is for Diwayu so we know where to channel it.

NatureKenya and the Wetlands Forum continue to do a very good job at raising the profile of the plight of the Delta and I’ll try and give you updates as often as possible.

Fighting hard to save a very special threatened wetland

It’s a shame to have to start off this blog with such an urgent and potentially discouraging message, but we have come on line at just the right time to add our voice to the outcry to try and stop what would be probably The most tragic of environmental disasters Kenya will have experienced in recent times… read on.

A Rocha Kenya is based in Watamu on the Kenyan coast about 150km south of one of the top three of Kenya’s richest and most diverse freshwater wetlands – the Tana River Delta. In another WildlifeDirect blog, “The Water Hole”, Samuel Maina has been posting some information already regarding the fight to save this awesome and incredibly special site. We are working together as part of a wider group of conservation organisations fighting a huge sugarcane project (covering an area of over 110,000ha / 270,000 acres – nearly three times the size of Amboseli National Park, x18 the size of Lake Nakuru National Park and almost 1.5 times the area of Shenandoah National Park in the USA!) that would eradicate the delta – and I’m hoping to raise further concern to encourage the Kenya government to save the Delta.

View of Tana River Delta from sand dunes - by Cheryl-Samantha Owen

The Tana River Delta is the most amazing wetland and a visit particularly during the time when the migrant birds are packed in there feasting on the vast resources together with flooding when herons and storks are nesting… it is a mind-blowing experience. Roni has visited the Okavango Delta and even she said that doing our waterfowl count in January was a far more radical birding experience than the Okavango. This year during the counts we were walking across open mud flats and saw recent lion spoor and a waterbuck which had obviously been walking happily along only to scent or see the lion and to change direction and leap off in the opposite way! There are also elephant and buffalo and certainly over 800 hippo in the delta – we saw a pod (herd) of what we estimated at 400 in just one spot!

Hippos in Tana by Cheryl-Samantha Owen

Our waterbird counts for the past two years reached 15,000 water birds of 72 species counted on just one day in January 2007 and a similar number of 71 species again in 2008. Highlights included:

  • 1,600 herons and egrets

Little Egret in the Delta by Cheryl-Samantha Owen

  • a flock of 1,400 African Open-billed Stork,
  • 58 Allen’s Gallinules,
  • a single flock of 3,500 Ruff,
  • 3,200 terns
  • flock of 76 African Skimmers… African Skimmers
  • and the largest recorded number of Pacific Golden Plover for East Africa – 180 birds (normally seen in ones and two!)

…and that was only covering a small proportion (c.15-20% max) of the whole delta on a random day! There is a major heronry in the delta, where herons and storks come to from all over East Africa to breed and it is a highly important breeding site for fish (and therefore extremely important source of income and nitrition for a large human population). Also, as well as the elephant and lion, there are a lot of buffalo and antelope including an endemic race of Topi found only on a few remaining sites of the East African coast. Late last year some Wild Dog were also seen in the Delta.

River deltas are known for being fragile, dynamic and extremely rich and important wetland systems, flooding in times of good rain and later drying out again. Any small amount of playing with the hydrological systems will upset the delicate natural balance and wreak havoc on the ecosystem. To put sugar plantations right into the heart of the Tana Delta will spell the end of the delta. Sugar is widely known as an ecological desert in itself and the effluent and pollution from the processing plants in Africa is highly damaging as will be the impact of the many 1,000s of workers and others who will be attracted to the area and who will need food, water and somwhere to rid their sewage and rubbish.

It will be a regional natural disaster if this development is allowed to go ahead the way it is currently planned. A strong section of the local community living in the delta, represented by the Lower Tana River Delta Conservation Trust, are fighting it hard as can be read in The Water Hold blog. Several conservation organisations have come together to form a lobby group to seek to stop this project from destroying the delta. The next blog will give further updates on what’s happened and how you can assist.